Handy research tips- cleaning that long-lost gravestone

Discovering the gravestone of a long lost ancestor can be a big event for the family history researcher. There can be so much information to be learned from the wording on the gravestone.

You can learn a lot by reading your ancestor’s gravestone. Sometimes, though, a genealogist will arrive at the cemetery and find that the gravestone they were hoping to read is covered with overgrown plants or weeds and other debris. However, the attempt to clean off the gravestone must be carried out with the utmost care as damage can easily be accidentally done.

Genealogists need to realise that gravestones, especially really old ones, are fragile and easily damaged. Don’t let your excitement about finally locating your ancestor’s grave, make you accidentally damage it in your haste to read the lettering! 

To summarise, gentleness is the key. You are going to have to be patient when cleaning off a gravestone. Much can be achieved by using a soft sponge that has been soaked in just cold water, stay clear of the chemicals and other cleaning products! The gravestones are composed of minerals and salts, adding chemicals can often cause a chemical reaction that will erode the stone faster than if you just left it alone. A little bit of careful scrubbing can ease away the dirt and grime that has collected on the headstone.The clear finished result will be worth it, especially if you are then able to read a list of your ancestors to add to your records!

Cleaning those gravestones
Cleaning those gravestones

One thought on “Handy research tips- cleaning that long-lost gravestone

  1. Thank you for this useful information, I am lucky enough that my fathers paternal line all seem to have originated from the same parish for several generations. It has a lovely little church which is also quite local to me. so I shall have to get out my wellies and pay a visit!

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